Weighing just 37 pounds, Eloysa Vasquez did the unthinkable: She gave birth to a premature but otherwise healthy baby boy, Timothy Abraham Vasquez.
Eloysa, 38, has a rare and severe genetic bone disorder known as type 3 osteogenesis imperfecta, which makes her bones brittle. She requires the use of a wheelchair and stands about 3 feet tall.
The hospital where she had her baby, Stanford University's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, released a detailed statement about how such a remarkable medical feat was possible:
After two previous miscarriages, Eloysa and her husband, Roy, were determined to have a child. But her small and distorted frame, prone to fracture, didn't allow enough room for the growth of a full-term fetus. So when she reached the 20-week mark, she was referred to specialists who helped her determine when she should have a Caesarean section.
"The issues were highly unusual. Eloysa had an adult metabolism moving through a pediatric-size body," said James Smith, an obstetrician at Packard. "Her growing uterus was pressuring her entire abdomen. We also had to carefully watch nutrition. Eloysa's child-size stomach could only hold so much. Her delicate bones required a high intake of protein and calcium, but the fetus needed these nutrients, too."
At 32 weeks, the growing baby was affecting Eloysa's ability to breathe, so Smith and a team of doctors delivered Timothy via C-section. He was born Jan. 24, weighing 3 pounds, 11 ounces.
While it may sound impossible, women of similar size and weight -- usually women with dwarfism disorders, doctors noted -- have delivered healthy babies.
But Eloysa's bone condition makes this an especially rare delivery. Not only was she at risk of breaking major bones because of the growing weight of the baby, she could have passed along the genetic condition.
The risk to both mother and baby "opens up a whole can of worms," said Jaques Moritz, director of gynecology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, who has never heard before of such a case.
In fact, "out of 4 million childbirths each year in the U.S., we believe there are only a handful of successful pregnancies of this type," Smith said.